On Saturday, September 29th, I went to Father Earle King’s retirement party. He had been the rector of Saint Martin-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church since October 1987. He said, at the party, that, when he accepted the position at St. Martin’s, he believed that he would be the church’s rector six years, eight years at the most.
His tenure at Saint Martin’s lasted for thirty-one years. The church grew during his time in membership. It even grew physically. In the 1990s, membership at St. Martin’s grew so much that the building was too small for the number of people attending. So, an addition was built onto the church.
|Father Earle took on different roles,
telling stories or performing in skits
on Christmas Eve. Here he is
with his last intern, Giselle Jackman,
during Christmas 2016. He truly
brought the Christmas story
I came to Saint Martin’s in December of 2006 to sing at the Christmas Eve service that year. I was told that the choir needed another soprano. The music was not difficult and it seemed like a fun way to spend a Christmas Eve.
Both Father Earle and I misjudged the amount of time that he would spend at St. Martin’s. For him, the anticipated six years stretched into 31 years. For me, two weeks of rehearsal and one evening of singing stretched into… twelve years!
|Father Earle becomes an
honorary canon in
Father Earle and his wife Paula (the church’s organist and choir director) have been a big part of my world for the past twelve years. I sang in the choir, mostly as a soprano but, when needed, I switched to alto. I became a counter and had to do *gasp*! math and handle money! I’ve served as an usher and I’ve brought food for coffee hour and I’ve poured coffee and tea. Under Father Earle’s guidance, I read the entire Bible from beginning to end.
I went out into the community with Father Earle. We attended fundraising breakfasts for the Family Justice Center, an organization that provides support and safety for victims of domestic violence.
|Father Earle had the magic
touch with small children
We walked against hunger in the annual CROP walk. Father Earle spoke at Lenten luncheons. He was everywhere. I was convinced that, no matter where I went, Father Earle would be there. OK, within reason. I went for a walk against nuclear weapons in coastal Georgia and… what??? where is Father Earle? (Is this “Where’s Waldo?”)
One day, I was in downtown Buffalo. I was going to listen to music at Saint Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral. I got there early and decided to go to the noon service. The service started… and I heard this really familiar voice… I looked up… and there was Father Earle!
Father Earle truly seemed to be just about everywhere.
Father Earle listened to me. He prayed with me and he prayed for me. He added numerous names to the prayer list. He was a huge support to me and my family when my father passed away six years ago. When I was hospitalized, he visited me.
I feel that Father Earle has enriched my life and has made my world a better place. This is how Eric Boron said it at Father Earle’s retirement dinner: “We are poised, on the tip of expectation, awaiting the
amazing things that God has in store for St. Martin’s. We’re going to be good.
How do we know that? Because your goodness, Father Earle, will always be with
us. Your goodness and servant hood. The
legacies that you leave to us. Father Earle, we can say that we have been
changed for the better because we knew you.
Because we knew you, we have been changed for good. Because we knew you,
we have been changed for God. God speed, blessings, and thank you, Father
Bishop Bill Franklin said, “I look at Earle and I look at Paula and I see model servants of Jesus
Christ. I see a strong marriage. I see
kindness, I see dignity to everyone he meets. Can you ask for more than that?
It is a great gift that God has given you.
You have this priest with you.”
|Bishop Bill, Father Earle and Paula King|
Father Earle and Paula are in the process of moving on. They have adventures awaiting them. Father Earle will continue to inspire people with his faith and with his love for and support of youth. He and Paula will continue to share their gift for music with their community.
A tree has been planted at Saint Martin’s in honor of Father Earle. It is a visual reminder that Father Earle was there for 31 years and that he made a difference in everyone’s lives.